In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio CEO Stephanie Kight penned an Op-ed to the Newark Advocate. In it, she highlights the link between Ohio’s infant mortality crisis and lack of access to contraceptives.
On June 7, 1965, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that would change the lives of women for generations to come. On the 50th anniversary of that day, we are still fighting for healthier birth outcomes. And right now, Ohio is losing.
In the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, Estelle Griswold, executive director of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut, was able to win her fight to protect access to birth control for married couples.
Since then, a lot has changed. Women are now able to obtain education and pursue careers at higher numbers than ever before. In fact, women now represent the majority of undergraduate college students and the number of women-owned businesses is at an all-time high.
There is no doubt that the ability to better control the timing and spacing of children has played a huge role in helping women to make these strides.
With all that women have accomplished during the last 50 years, we still find ourselves fighting against attacks aimed at stripping a woman of her right to make her own healthcare decisions.
Today, lawmakers all across the country continue to introduce legislation to limit access to abortion, reproductive healthcare and contraceptives. Their efforts have far-reaching consequences, but hit low-income women particularly hard — the very group that needs these services the most.
Perhaps they fail to see how truly irresponsible their actions are. Limiting access to contraceptives is not only harmful for women all across Ohio. Access to contraceptives is inextricably linked to an issue that has weighed heavily on the minds of all Ohioans as of late: the infant mortality crisis.
Ohio is the worst state in the nation for infant mortality. While the other 49 states in the union saw a decline in infant mortality rates from 2005 through 2011, Ohio’s rate remained the same.
But, it gets worse. Ohio’s overall rate of infant mortality hovers near 7.57 infant deaths per 1,000, but the rate is a staggering 13.93 for African American babies.
Efforts are being made by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to attack this issue head on. But as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Griswold v. Connecticut decision, an interesting trend emerges.
While Gov. Kasich and other Republican lawmakers claim to see the infant mortality crisis as an important issue, they are quietly attempting to strip away the very provisions in place that would help combat the problem: access to contraceptives.
The proposed state budget would eliminate a critical component of Ohio’s family planning program known as the family planning waiver. This program, which is funded almost entirely with federal funds, provides birth control to a targeted group of low-income women all across the state. The budget will create, once again, barriers for women to access family planning services who don’t qualify for full Medicaid benefits and yet have the some of the highest need.
Research shows that in the absence of family planning services provided at safety-net health centers, rates of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion would be 25 percent higher. Why would we want to eliminate programs that are already helping us fight back against the infant mortality crisis? Preventing unintended pregnancy and infant mortality are inextricably linked.
Contraceptives should not only be legal, they should be widely available, affordable, and without stigma. Planned Parenthood is fighting to make this a reality every day, and it is a battle we have been fighting since Estelle Griswold lead the charge in 1965.
We want our leaders to know that we will not stand by while they claim to care about the infant mortality crisis, but simultaneously chip away at women’s reproductive rights.
As we reflect on the legacy of Estelle Griswold and the progress we have made in the 50 years since the landmark Supreme Court decision, we celebrate her courage of conviction and commitment to women’s health.
Today, we honor that legacy by sounding the alarm on the irresponsible actions of Gov. John Kasich and members of the state legislature. It is time stop putting partisan politics above the lives of Ohio’s children and their mothers.
Just like Estelle Griswold 50 years ago, we will not be silenced.
Stephanie Kight is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.